Bruce Sterling reviews 5.11 tactical cargo pants

A couple of years ago, I liked Bruce Sterling’s review of 5.11 brand tactical cargo pants so much that I bought a pair. And I liked the pants so much that I bought two more pairs, and a couple of pairs of 5.11 shorts (which I’m wearing right now). Now I wear 5.11 pants or shorts every day, unless I have to go somewhere dressy.

Yes, I’m taking fashion advice from a science fiction writer. Science fiction writers are well known snappy dressers.

Here are the pants.

The pants are tough, comfortable, they look ok, and they have numerous useful pockets for iPhone, keys, wallet, dog poop bag, and so on.

The pants have a small pocket at the front left thigh that seems to have been designed for some kind of ammo clip. I find it perfect for an iPhone, though I suspect that will no longer be the case in a few days when I upgrade to the iPhone 7 Plus.

The back right pocket of the pants has a mysterious utility strap. Sterling says the strap is a vestige of the pants’ history; they started out as athletic gear for mountain climbers, and then became popular with police.

Supposedly, mountaineers were supposed to hang carabiners off this strap; it’s a vestige of athletic life that somehow adorned the police force. In real life, this “utility strap” was something like “puttees” — everybody has heard about “puttees” and has some vague notion that they must have been para-militarily useful for something-or-other. But they weren’t, which is why they’re extinct now. I wore 5.11 Tacticals for ten years and never once was my nifty “utility strap” ever utilized for anything.

I’ve never found a use for the strap either.

The front right hip has a D-ring that Sterling pronounced as useless — he called it one of several “fetishistic oddities” that adorn the pants. I find the D-ring quite useful; I clip my keys to it. I’m in and out of the house a dozen times a day, and because Sammy is an escape cat who can operate a doorknob, I lock the door behind me every time. That’s a lot of locking and unlocking. So it’s good to have my keys handy.

Sterling is a journalist in addition to a science fiction writer, and finds the 5.11 pants handy for looking good after scrapes in the field, and for carrying numerous gadgets that he uses in his work.

In old-school 5.11s, you could leave a car, ramble across a wet field, dodge through a barbed wire fence or two, manage some weeds and thorns, emerge on a distant street, find a nice cafe and behave as if nothing had happened.

I like to think I’m that kind of journalist, but in fact I’m more the kind of journalist who spends most days at home in front of the computer in his tactical pants, while often putting on a suit and going to conferences and meetings. But still the 5.11 tactical pants make me feel like at any moment I could go rambling through a wet field and dodging through barbed wire fences.